It was announced earlier this week that the NHL will not be sending any of its players to the PyeongChang Olympics in 2018. It was really no surprise and most people support the idea of not having NHLers in the Games this time. I wholeheartedly agree with not having the players in the Olympics, but not for the reasons that have been stated ad nauseum by the pundits and sportswriters.
I have been against players in the NHL playing in the Olympics from the beginning of the idea. I don’t want to see anyone from the NBA in the Games, either. Nor golfers. No, in my humble opinion, the Olympics were meant to be the realm of the amateur athlete. That rule was so rigid that the IOC stripped Jim Thorpe of his medals in 1913 because he had played two years of baseball in the Eastern Carolina League for as little as $2 per game.
I’ve heard the arguments that other countries were using their professionals against our American amateurs for years and years of Games. I’ve never really cared much for that argument. Just because someone else is doing something, doesn’t mean that we should do it. Isn’t that what all our mothers repeatedly told us as children? We should continue to follow that adage. I have an even deeper reason for not wanting our professional athletes in the Olympics.
Think back to the Miracle on Ice. It is easily the best example of what I’m going to attempt to explain. It’s 1980 and the US Men’s Hockey team is made up of college athletes. In the first round of the medal games, the US was going to take on the Soviets. The Soviet team was heavily favored, having won four golds since the 1964 Games. In fact, since the US upset in the 1960 Olympics, the Soviet team had gone 27-1-1 and outscored their opponents 175-44. The 1980 Soviet team was made up of active military members and other players who spent their time training in premier leagues in Europe. They steamrolled their opponents.
The youngest team in the tournament, the United States, came out and defeated the Soviets to earn a trip to the gold medal game against Finland. Al Michaels asked during the broadcast, “Do you believe in miracles?” Yes I do, and it’s because it was a group of college kids who took down the proverbial Goliath. Would that game be nearly as awesome if Wayne Gretzky and Mike Bossy were playing? (Yes, I know they’re Canadian, but I was using those familiar names for the sake of argument.) My answer is a solid no.
I think the Olympics should be for the unpolished gem, waiting to shine in the world’s spotlight. Deepening the ranks of the amateurs, preparing them for the world stage, and then having them move on into professional leagues will only make those big leagues that much better. At least that’s how I see it.
It took until 1983 for Jim Thorpe to finally be given recognition by the Olympic Committee. They gave his family commemorative medals in place of the originals, which had been stolen from a museum and are still at large. The IOC ruled that Thorpe would be co-champions with the original silver medal finalists. To this day, they still have not restored his results to the Olympic record book. In the meantime, professionals like Dominic Hasek, Mario Lemieux, and Sidney Crosby still have their names and accomplishments etched into the record books along with their medals.
Craig Bacon loves the Olympics. He wishes he could take part in his favorite Winter Olympic sport -- the biathlon -- even though he’s never fired a rifle, nor cross-country skied. These are his opinions. In the broad scheme of things, it really means nothing.